It's been years since I've been to the Getty Center; shameful for a near-LA native, I know. But since my original Sunday plan of playing Accomplice got rescheduled, my friends and I decided to make the better of this sunny day and took a brisk, breezy roadtrip to the Westside to take in some culture and brunch in their artsy restaurant.
Like hotels and airports, I'm usually skeptical of museum restaurants... being the only game in town, there's really no incentive to prepare food beyond passable, right? And I'd say even more so with the Getty, where it takes at least a 15 minute tram ride, 10 minute parking lot navigation and another 10 minute drive down the 405 (in "good" traffic) to get to the next eatery. But after reading S. Irene's fairly positive review (along with others,) I decided to give their only restaurant a go for brunch... at the very least, I get to soak in some nice scenery -- and reinforce my notion to avoid airport/hotel/museum sitdown fare.
Our original foursome for the trip shrank to a trio, so instead of splitting a bottle of sparkly as planned we each wound up getting our own cocktail. I got a Pimm's Cup ($11), a classic with Pimm's No. 1, muddled citrus and cucumber plus ginger ale. A well-balanced mix of fruity, vegetal, herbal and spicy notes, it's the perfect refresher for a hot day!
Keeping with the cool and refreshing theme, my two friends W. and H. ordered the Citrus-Ginger Cooler ($10) made with vodka, citrus juices (including grapefuit, as one can tell from color,) ginger syrup and some fizz. It was more robust than the Pimm's Cup in flavor, size and alcohol content, but a bit more one-dimensional overall--blasting the palate with spicy ginger and sweet citrus, rather than the more complex, nuanced hints and notes of my cocktail. Still, a decent brunch-time quaffer (and that zippy ginger syrup at the bottom, which I tasted before it got stirred in, was amazing!).
After placing our orders, the chef sent out an amuse of kumamoto oyster-gazpacho shooters ~ which W. and H. loved while I contemplated falling off the vegetarian wagon. Alas, with some hesitation I passed mine to W. to finish.
We started our brunch by splitting an order of their wild mushroom soup with chive cream, puff pastry and microgreens ($9). We asked for 3 spoons when we placed the order, but it was sent it out in 3 coffee cups--how lovely of the kitchen to do that! And the soup itself was pretty good too, having a light body and a pronounced woodsy-earth mushroom flavor, with the chive cream adding just extra notch of richness. For me, the puff pastry was nice but extraneous, though I'm usually not one to break crackers or dip bread into my soup to begin with (grilled cheese and tomato soup being the key exception!)
For our brunch entrees, I got their risotto with English peas, wild mushrooms, cauliflower and Parmigiano Reggiano* ($16) topped with pea tendrils that turned out heavenly, a divine melange of toothsome rice, creamy-cheesy sauce, woodsy shrooms and sweet vegetables. And I was definitely deceived by its seemingly small size, as this primi portion was more than enough to fill me up.
W. got the server's recommendation: crab cake benedict with bacon, wilted spinach and Maltaise sauce on a toasted croissant w greens on the side ($20.) I only got a few forkfuls of her salad (fresh, crisp and nicely dressed with a sweet vinaigrette) but W. and H. splitted this hearty sandwich and loved the combination of flavors, from the above-average crab cake with hearty lumps of meat, to the thick-sliced bacon, flaky croissant and the tender spinach binded with the runny poached egg and the buttery sauce. And despite their collective complaints of the many pounds this will slap onto the scale, there wasn't a bite left at the end of the meal!
H. got the apricot Panettone French toast with mixed berry compote, vanilla cream and Vermont maple syrup ($14): again, more filling than it looked--especially the three of us essentially split this as our brunch dessert. In contrast to the benedict, this French toast was surprisingly mild in a good way. It wasn't too heavy or greasy from the pan-frying, and the sauces had just a dab of sweetness; in fact, the sugar is almost a hindsight here, with the fragrant vanilla and juicy berry notes being pleasantly prominent. Again, there were more calorie-related groans, but hardly a crumb remained...
And as tempting as their dessert and post-meal drinks menu looked, we were beyond stuffed so we opted for more water and coffee. And after a satisfied sigh, we made our way onward to check out the rest of the Getty Center, from their vibrant, lush gardens and gorgeous permanent collection artwork to their special exhibits including Leonardo da Vinci's sculptural works and influences and an educational gallery of how a sculpture is cast in the foundry back in the days. Of course, we stopped by their food-related Tasteful Pictures exhibit, though the still life in that gallery paled in comparison to what we had just consumed.
And I can't wait for the next set of installations to come on display here, if only give myself a reason to swing back to the Restaurant to try their next round of seasonally-rotating dishes!
The Restaurant At The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Full flickr set of our meal and Getty trip here.
*P.S.: Yes, Parmigiano-Reggiano is technically not a vegetarian-friendly cheese (being made with animal rennet) but I'm not that strict a vegetarian and gave myself carte blanche with dairy products, though I try to avoid animal rennet cheeses where possible (and it looks like I'm not the only vegetarian to cut myself some slack in this department)